The Hunchbacks of Venice

A 'Gobbo Antibandito' or 'Pissotta', Venice
You don't have to wander around Venice's dark and narrow streets for long before noticing that many of the corners are filled in with stone or brick, or fitted with sloping stone shelves. 

These constructions, known as gobbe antibandito or pissotte, had a two-fold purpose. Firstly, they made it harder for footpads, and the like, to lie in wait and ambush passers-by. Secondly they discouraged people (okay, men) from using the corners as urinals. 

A painting of a cross was often added as an additional deterrent.

It is easy to guess why they were called pissotte; gobbe antibandito translates roughly as hunchbacks against thieves.

We see an offender in action in Canaletto's painting of Rio dei Mendicanti.
Rio dei Mendicanti by Canaletto


  1. "Raindrops on roses ..." these little structures are among my favourite things in Venice!



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